Steps Ahead

Justice for Jazz Artists

Volume CX, No. 10October, 2010

Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola has a great view, and now the club pays pension for some musicians.
Photo: LuizFilipe via

It’s official: some jazz musicians at
Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola are receiving
pension contributions for the first time

The Justice for Jazz Artists campaign has achieved a small but not insignificant landmark: pension contributions for some of the performers appearing at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola, a major venue in New York City.

Dizzy’s is part of the large complex of performance spaces and educational facilities that make up Jazz at Lincoln Center, arguably the premier location for jazz in New York.

JALC has been under contract with Local 802 since the mid-1990’s – but up until now JALC only recognized musicians working in the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, not performers who appeared at Dizzy’s.

Earlier this year, Local 802 Recording Vice President John O’Connor and Jazz Consultant Bob Cranshaw met with JALC Executive Producer Laura Johnson and General Counsel James Grooms regarding the pension question.

At that meeting, O’Connor was firm in his commitment to pension for all jazz artists, but also made it clear that Dizzy’s making pension contributions on behalf of musicians was not dependent on the musicians’ status as employees under state and federal regulations, a distinction that may have resonated with JALC leadership.

Under New York State Labor Law 511, musicians have been recognized as “employees,” but the determination of who the employer is in nightclub employment is not clearly defined.

Most club owners strongly resist being defined as employers, and pay their performers as independent contractors.

In June, JALC contacted 802 to say that they had reviewed the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra contract, and that an earlier misreading of the language regarding pension and welfare eligibility had resulted in some guest performers – those not appearing with “pre-existing units” – missing out on contractual pension and health contributions.

Jazz at Lincoln Center went back to fiscal year 2005 and sent over a list of eligible performers – and a check – to correct the error.

O’Connor said “This is significant progress. It’s something we’ve been waiting for a long time.”

But O’Connor said there is a question about the selectivity of to whom Dizzy’s is paying benefits that needs to be examined.

“Dizzy’s needs to pay pension for everybody who plays music in its club,” says O’Connor. “Justice for Jazz Artists is exactly that – justice for all artists who play jazz in 802’s jurisdiction.”